It is certainly a book which will hold your attention and keep you engaged. Great value and recommended. What is fact and what is fiction? Either way it is an entertaining read.
By Champollion (Cheshire)
It is certainly a book which will hold your attention and keep you engaged. Great value and recommended. What is fact and what is fiction? Either way it is an entertaining read.
By Champollion (Cheshire)
Chequered Justice: Very occasionally a book comes along that is hard to put down, and this is one of those. It’s really a true story masquerading as a fiction, and that’s what gives it its raw emotional power: it seems these very shocking events really happened to the author. The story isn’t shocking because it’s violent – as too many thrillers often are – but because emotional impact of the Kafkaesque web of injustice in which the narrator and his family are trapped. If all this is true – as it appears to be – it’s very scarey, much more so than if it was just imagined. The story is compulsive for the simple, obvious reason you really want to know what happened next, and how these bad things can be put right, if they ever can. I spent the whole day reading it for just that reason. (I also know a lot more about motor racing now than I did before!)
Chequered Justice: I purchased this book after reading the other reviews and was not dissapointed. It is a well written and an unusual story which I found very entertaining as well as a little thought provoking. You gather from the book that it is based on actual events and if this is true then I feel very sorry for the main character. The driving descriptions are good and I especially enjoyed the Brands Hatch bits as I live near to Brands and have been there many times and been round it a few times. Read this book!
So, twenty four years ago to the day, at around 5.30am on 8th February 1993, under cover of darkness with blue lights flashing wildly, a squad of Metropolitan Police officers forced their way into my home near Arundel in West Sussex, in an operation considered significant enough to warrant its own code name: Operation Spider!
Why? Was I some known villain, perhaps a violent criminal with a long record? Absolutely not… I was simply a family guy, happily married with two young sons and, if you excluded the odd speeding offence, had never been in trouble with the police. I did have a fairly unusual occupation at the time though. I was a professional racing driver (that’s me on the video compilation below), but unless you were into the sport, you’d probably have never heard of me and anyway, I was out of work at the time. In that respect, I’d been having a spot of trouble with a certain PPI insurance company. It had all begun following a horse riding accident in Malaysia and my subsequent unemployment. Whilst at the time you may not have heard of me, you also possibly wouldn’t have heard of PPI Insurance. However, that was about to change and now just about everybody has heard of both PPI and what it stands for. But just in case you haven’t, they’re the companies that are now, twenty years on, in the dock themselves for some extremely unethical practices!
Well, it turned out that my insurance claims had caused the police raid. But how could legitimate claims for redundancy and injury trigger such an out of context response? One can only speculate, but perhaps the following had something to do with it…
I detested being given the run around by an insurance company who, I believed, were trying to avoid paying my legitimate claims, so I’d written to the BBC TV’s Watchdog programme. Watchdog then ran a massive exposé and by the second programme hundreds and hundreds of viewers had phoned in, reporting they’d suffered similar problems with the same insurer. As I’d copied my BBC letter to my PPI insurers, they knew precisely who was behind it. As it was, my case didn’t even feature on the programme because my letter had already done the trick quite nicely and they’d responded by paying my claim! Years later, Watchdog presenter Nick Ross, voiced the “Watchdog” section in the Chequered Justice Audio Book for free.
However, clearly unhappy, they also responded by putting me under months of ongoing surveillance by no less than six different firms of unlicensed private detectives. One by one they all reported back that my claim appeared legitimate, but finally, another suggested that I couldn’t have been injured at all as they’d watched me, out each day riding horses and mucking out stables. Unfortunately this private detective had somehow watched the wrong person, managing to confuse me with a completely different man of a similar age… the husband of a lady who’d been using our stables.
The Watch Dog programme had clearly ruffled some feathers, and doubtless cost the Company a lot of money – I was later told the combined effect of lost business, ‘damage to reputation’ and settling claims previously avoided, was likely to have run into many millions of pounds. So, you may think a few rather powerful people in very high places had a bit of a grudge, and perhaps wanted a spot of revenge… I’m not allowed to comment.
In any event, the inaccurate report, produced by that incompetent private detective, was forwarded to a high level “contact” in the Metropolitan Police by my insurers and triggered what I felt was a totally out of context and brutal raid. Of course, at my trial, the jury were never allowed to know any of this. Why? Very simple… following the raid, officialdom very quickly discovered that the private detectives report was incorrect, so it couldn’t be used in the subsequent trial. Therefore we weren’t allowed to refer to it in evidence, although the private detective was invited to attend the trial by the CPS and brief the Crown witnesses in the waiting room prior to their giving evidence!
Anyway, what happened during that raid was very relevant. The object of a dawn raid is, I’m reliably informed, to cause shock and alarm… and in this respect the shock tactics worked very well, although not quite as planned, because I was five hundred miles away in Scotland at the time with my wife and two sons. However, my 79 year old mother was home… As cars screeched to a halt and the officers forced their way passed her in her nightdress, she collapsed and was later diagnosed as having suffered a stroke! Suddenly, there was a very serious risk of the Metropolitan Police being accused of causing the death of an 79 year old woman, after acting on the advice an unlicensed private detective. Nowadays the Metropolitan Police seem to get away with killing a few people without too much flack. Recently for example, there was the Ian Tomlinson case, the newspaper seller who was killed during G20 protests. But back in the 90s it was a bit different, and this was an 79 year old woman!
I returned home two days later and was incensed by the injustice of what had happened in my absence, not to mention that I considered they’d almost killed my mother. I immediately threatened to sue everyone – the police, my insurers, the private detective and even the bank that had sold me the policy in the first place! How did the police respond? I was arrested…
Although still planning to sue everybody in sight, I thought it best to calm down just a little and co-operate with the police, explaining anything they didn’t understand.
But, before I go on, perhaps I should explain a few things to you, the reader of my blog. At that time I was a very driven person; I simply lived to race and was determined to follow my dream. In that respect maybe my ambitions exceeded my abilities… sadly, I will never know the answer to that one. Perhaps that didn’t make me the best husband or father in the world, I know that now, but I really loved my family as well as my job. However, it had been my dream since childhood to make it as a professional driver and just prior to the general meltdown in the economy, I was really beginning to get there, securing lap records and wins. Then the recession resulted in the collapse of my team! Despite the deepening slump however, I’d just helped pull off a major coup, prior to the police raid, using a new and rather novel “prize Indemnity” scheme, establishing a new team and sponsors for whom I’d drive in the forthcoming season. That’s what I explained to the police, albeit over several hours of taped interviews.
And their response? Well, not a lot… that is, if you exclude scratching their heads over prize indemnity and then simply informing everyone involved with the new setup, and just about everybody that knew me, that I had a long criminal record, and was a nasty piece of work that belongs behind bars! But as I said before, I had no criminal record! And one other significant detail: the officer leading the operation, then proceeded to write all the witness statements himself, rather than troubling the witnesses to do it (click on the documents to the left for enlargement). Some may consider that a little biased… I couldn’t possibly comment.
It was shortly after this that something else happened, something completely unconnected. The bank that had sold me one of my policies, bounced a series of cheques by mistake. They said it was a computer error but I was already fuming over the PPI policies they’d sold me and the recent raid. This time I didn’t hesitate, I issued proceedings against them in the High Court. The cheques had amounted to just over £16 but the bank ultimately settled for £4,000 and the next day it was all in The Sun newspaper! “Bank pays Client £4000 for Cash Slur.” Well, I wasn’t exactly making friends… and what’s more I’d used my legal costs policy, provided by the bank I was suing, to sue them! Some people may think I was in fact making enemies… but I didn’t need to. Thanks to the helpful police officers, I appeared to have inherited an entire army of witnesses, all with neatly prepared statements (the ones written by the police themselves), witnesses prepared to swear that I was the biggest villain since All Capone.
So, why had I kicked up such a stink? Well, I’ve always hated being bullied or pushed around by anyone… big organisations or big anything. It didn’t matter how big they were, I think I must be genetically programmed to oppose it – I’d always fight back. It was a bit of an exposed nerve, something that went way back to my boarding school days where I was always being picked on and beaten black and blue by teachers and bigger kids. Anyway, I was livid at what was happening and what the police and insurance companies had already done to my reputation.
So, perhaps at this point it would be good to just recap on 5 key points from this and my previous postings…
Note the comment that: ‘Investigators will now try to find out if the motor racing connection has been used before.’ Did the Crown think, with me they’d hooked another “Mr Big”? All I know is that the circuit Judge suddenly and very specifically requested to ‘sit’ on my trial and then, at each pre-trial hearing, made very obvious references to ‘drug money and money laundering’.
Around this time my solicitor had been saying that the Crowns case was crumbling and all charges were likely to be dropped. Consequently, I started to write a book called Broken Dream, about what had happened and to prepare civil proceedings to sue everybody I could lay my hands on! The Metropolitan Police responded by kicking the original officer off the case, bringing in a superior and writing to my insurers warning them that I was about to sue. My insurers responded by suspending my legal costs policy, stating they were only required to provide cover if I had a good prospect of success and as the Crown Prosecution Service are only allowed to proceed if they have a good prospect of success, my insurers considered I clearly couldn’t have! I now had to rely on Legal Aid.
So what happened next?
Well, my insurers saw The Sun article and clearly didn’t like it. A confidential internal email was sent from their claims department (click the image to see) asking if anything could be done and a reply the same day refers to trying to “rekindle the police interest”. The Metropolitan Police kindly obliged by raiding me again for a second time and during that raid they took away all my privileged defence documentation, prepared by my solicitor for the forthcoming trial. On leaving, one of the officers whispered: You’re going down, son! Get used to it, that way it won’t be such a shock when it happens… you’ll have plenty of time to write your little book!
If the events that had overtaken our lives by this point weren’t bizarre enough, the trial that followed was mind boggling and deeply flawed on many levels, with so many strange events and rulings that the trial itself should clearly have been investigated. Instead, the Crown prosecutor was promoted and the Metropolitan Police, paid a share of my fathers Will following it’s seizure and confiscation by the Crown!
Just one mindbogglingly bizarre ruling was the judges refusal to allow the spinal surgeon time to give his evidence and explain to the jury the implications of the x-rays (see left)… in fact my jury were never even shown the all important x-rays!
Subsequently I was warned of severe consequences should I publish a factual account of the trial itself or the proceedings surrounding it, events that would later be dismissed officially as a string of coincidences, flukes and regrettable errors. So, despite living in a country with supposed free speech, I was never permitted to publish my original factual book, Broken Dream, but I was allowed to write a “novel or a fiction” based on it! In 2010, Chequered Justice was finally published as a hardback. It sold out in less than 4 weeks and was subsequently republished in bulk paperback format (subsequently reprinted five times to date). In 2011 it was released in Amazon Kindle eBook format, where it became a Number 1 Bestseller for over 3 months in their Legal Thriller and Courtroom Drama categories.
In November 2012, my second book, Dark Horse, a prequel to Chequered Justice was published and in April 2014, the audio book of Chequered Justice, read by Leslie Phillips CBE was also released.
So what I plan to do next, having skipped over the trial itself, is to post on this blog what happened after it and our subsequent move to the rainforests of Madagascar… currently the subject of yet another book, A Step too Far, being written by Mary, my wife.
More than two decades on, what happens next? I’m rather hoping the film, based on the books, will take my story to a bigger audience, but I can’t say too much at this time. It’s a sad fact that 24 years on, we still live a country where many of our police are prepared to pervert the cause of justice and worse (click for a recent list), including: Perjury, Oppressive Conduct, Harassment, Assault, Sexual Assault, Serious Non-Sexual Assault and Corrupt Practice and where our MPs, the people creating our laws, regularly lie and deceive the electorate. So, what hope do I have continuing to battle a system that stands by whilst the innocent are destroyed by lies? For the public to retain any degree of confidence in a justice system, that system must first develop an open and honest approach to correcting its mistakes, rather than trusting in its limitless powers to suppress them.
As I approach 63, having finally told my true story, I’ve more or less accepted that the past is in the past and most likely will never be resolved… I know that I need to look to the future, not remain stuck in mire that casts its shadow over everything it touches, but it’s tough to except. I certainly don’t blame my jury for what happened in my trial; after all, they were never allowed to see any of what you’ve seen on this blog.
For the bulk of my marriage, Mary, has been my constant supporter, always by my side. Sometimes it takes fate to test those bonds of love and friendship and only then do we discover their strength. So, we’ll be celebrating, not the memory, but the passing of this twenty four year milestone and then I’ll try to move on, damaged yes, but stronger, much stronger than before…
So, to continue my story, by 1979 I’d naively stumbled my way into the world of motor racing… and it was everything I had imagined as a child. But was the world I’d entered, intrinsically corrupt? Was that why the police raided me with such force? Certainly I wasn’t aware of anything at the time, but then I wasn’t looking for it. All I wanted to do was to become a racer, a name and ideally a big name. So why in 1993 did the police think I was some sort of criminal mastermind, a potential threat that needed force to overpower me… or my 79 year old mum? Was there anything criminal in my or my family’s background? Absolutely not…
I was born in Hove in East Sussex, the third child of William and Betty. My parents ran a seaside hotel in Brighton called the Claremont. Following a meeting with Graham Hill, who’s father was a guest at the hotel, I became fuelled by a determination to join that world and become a racing driver. At the age of seven, I was sent off to Shoreham Grammar, a boarding school where, being dyslexic, I was beaten black and blue most days by my teachers, who were of the opinion that corporal punishment, was the best method of eradicating my affliction. Needless to say, I hated school and quickly learnt a distrust of authority, and having auburn hair didn’t help, making me an instant target for bullies. I was considered a dreamer by my teachers, who throughout my school years commonly cursed me with the phrases like: “You’ll never amount to anything…” the curse, mixed with frequent bullying and pain inflicted by my teachers has held me in good stead throughout my life… It instilled a strong strength of mind, a drive to prove myself and an instinctive mistrust of authority… I’ll never accept bullying from anyone, especially those in power… I will always fight back!
So, looking back at motorsports recent history, did the police have any reason to be a bit suspicious of anyone involved in the sport? Possibly… just one or two cases in point…
In the US, back in the early 1980s, the IMSA Sports Car Championship that I’d competed in had been hit with a drugs scandal. A top driver, John Paul Junior, had been sent to prison for several years as a result of an investigation and his father sentenced to 25 years after pleading guilty to importing marijuana and tax evasion. But that was in the US. Did the British police consider the UK racing scene to be funded by drugs or some sort of illegal activity? Was that why I’d been raided with such force?
One prominent court case involving a UK racing team was a little matter concerning Lotus founder Colin Chapman, American John Delorean, a gentleman by the name of Fred Bushell and the British government. Basically, De Lorean agreed to pay Lotus US$15m to develop a car. You may know the one, the DeLorean DMC-12, which later featured in the 1985 film Back to the Future. Well, somewhere along the line, a large amount of government cash disappeared. Delorean fled, Chapman died and Bushell was arrested and found guilty of receiving a big pile of the missing money. The judge commented that if Chapman and De Lorean had been present they would have each received 10 year sentence for fraud.
Another man to be sent to prison with a link to motor racing was British businessman Ted Ball whose company, Landhurst Leasings, crashed with US$75m missing. It later evolved that Ball had been funding both the Brabham and Lotus F1 teams during the early 90s and he and his partner were accused of doctoring the books of Landhurst Leasings. He was sentenced to three years in prison after admitting to defrauding banks of millions.
From a promising racer in Formula Junior, then F1’s training ground, came Roy “The Weasel” James, who like many young and aspiring racers, was struggling to find sponsorship…. James decided to use his skills and tackle the problem head-on by taking up some part-time work… as a getaway driver for the Great Train Robbery!
Then there was Doug Wood, a former racing driver and team owner, arrested at helm of his cocaine packed yacht, Ronin. The boat had been tracked to the UK after being sailed into Trinidad and loaded with 91kg of cocaine, valued at around ten million pounds.
This type of activity and more, sensationalised by the British media, didn’t help the sports image. Articles thin on detail, designed only for impact to sell newspapers, reflected a picture of a sport mired in corruption.
By now I’d been racing for almost 13 years and had reached the World Sports Car Championship. It was now the very late 80s and the UK’s buoyant economy had turned. Thatchers Britain was in severe meltdown with another tsunami of debt heading our way courtesy of the US and a certain Jordan R. Belfort, aka The Wolf of Wall Street, the master of stock manipulation and corporate chicanery. The recession of the 90s hit with the power of an erupting volcano, its shockwaves rippling throughout the country. More than 50,000 small business a week were going bust, amongst them my race team, resulting in my redundancy. On 8th February 1993 the police raided me…
At precisely that moment yet another case was hitting the headlines, an investigation and trial involving a man by the name of Vic Lee… Had his case somehow, unwittingly influenced the police and the justice system who were at that very moment looking into my situation? In essence, had “the system” been prejudiced by the unconnected events of recent years?
Next post: This day, 20 years ago…
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